ONLY BEGOTTEN SON
“Only begotten Son and Logos (Word) of God, being immortal, You condescended (καταδεξάμενος) for our salvation to take flesh from the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary and, without change, became man. Christ, our God, You were crucified and conquered death by death. Being one with the Holy Trinity; glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit: save us.“ (Hymn of Byzantine Divine Liturgy)
The Byzantine Divine Liturgy is not watered-down when it comes to dogmatic theology. And this hymn, attributed to Byzantine Emperor Justinian (+565), gives me, in a nutshell, pretty much everything I need to know and carry with me, about the great mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation. So let me reflect on this hymn a bit.
The only begotten Son of God is also known as the “Word“ of the Father, because He is “begotten“ or “born“ – outside of time – of the Father, like a word is born in our minds, and then expressed outwardly, with a certain meaning and power. ...But this is no more and no less than the human way of expressing the “ineffable“ reality that is the life of the Triune God. I can’t “master“ this truth like some mathematical formula, but this is what I know: the Son exists or “is,“ before all time and always. Because, as the Fathers have pointed out, “God was never not a Father.“ And when Christ “took flesh“ of the ever-virgin Mary, He did just that: He did not come into existence at that point, nor did He “change“ in His divinity.
What He did change, however, and change most radically, is our humanity. When He entered into our “flesh“ and all its then-darkness, even unto our death and our hell, rather than avoiding it, He overcame all that by rising out of it. And so He made that possible for all of us, because he did it in our humanity, in our own shoes, worn by Him, divinity. He trampled death “by death“ itself, and shows me how to do that: He shows me how to walk through things, rather than avoid them, in His light and wisdom., in communion with Him. Thus He “saves“ us or “makes us whole“ again, with ourselves and with our life as it is, not to be escaped or avoided. Glory be to Him.